Ben Chandler, Andy Barr close their campaigns on multicounty bus tours

jbrammer@herald-leader.comNovember 5, 2012 

MIDWAY — In a race that both major candidates consider razor-close, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler and Republican Andy Barr conducted a fierce finish Monday in campaigning for Central Kentucky's 6th Congression al District seat.

Both candidates held a flurry of rallies across the 19-county district.

Chandler, a former state attorney general and auditor who has held the congressional seat since 2004, participated in a bus tour of the district with Gov. Steve Beshear, several other current and former state constitutional officers and former University of Kentucky basketball coach Joe B. Hall.

Barr, a Lexington lawyer who lost to Chandler by 648 votes in the 2010 election, finished his weeklong bus tour of the district by visiting six counties on the final day of campaigning before voters decide the outcome Tuesday.

Barr, who has never held elective office, was buoyed by a report that nationally known University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato changed his "crystal ball" assessment of Kentucky's 6th Congressional District race, moving it from the "leans Democratic" into the "leans Republican" column.

At a stop in Midway, Barr said he had been a student in a Sabato class at the university. "He's a shrewd political prognosticator," Barr said.

But Barr said he was not taking anything for granted. "We are going to work hard until the polls close. However, the ratings change does confirm what we are seeing on the ground — a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of excitement. We've been greeted by a lot of citizens who believe our country is in bad shape."

Chandler, at the Fayette County Democratic Party headquarters before leaving on his bus tour Monday, said he realized the race was tight but thought it was "trending in our direction."

He acknowledged that President Barack Obama's unpopularity in the district has made the race "more challenging" for him. Barr has tried throughout the race to link Chandler with Obama.

Barr said Obama's "poor" performance on the economy and his regulations on businesses, particularly coal, have helped him in the race.

He said that nine of the 19 counties in the district have unemployment rates higher than the national average.

"People are weary of the dysfunction in Washington, and the best way to deal with these problems is to change leadership," Barr said.

Chandler got support Monday from Beshear, Attorney General Jack Conway, Auditor Adam Edelen, Treasurer Todd Hollenbach and former auditor Crit Luallen. They accompanied him on the bus tour.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray spoke on behalf of Chandler at the Fayette County rally but did not travel with him on the bus.

"We all know that Ben Chandler always does the right thing," Gray said. "He is a moderate who always reaches across the aisle to compromise for the right thing."

Beshear called Chandler "a commonsense, no-nonsense Democrat" and said Washington needed more people like him.

The two candidates are to vote early Tuesday — Barr at 8 a.m. at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington and Chandler at 9 a.m. at Huntertown Elementary School in Versailles.

They are scheduled to attend political party "celebrations" Tuesday night in Lexington. Only one will be sworn into office in January as the congressman from Kentucky's 6th District.

Independent Randolph Vance, a Lexington convenience-store employee, has run a limited campaign.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog:

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